WHY DOES HELIUM MAKE YOUR VOICE SOUND LIKE MICKEY MOUSE??

I thought I would develop a new category of posts I’m calling, Interesting but Insignificant Information.  Go ahead, admit it.  You know you’re a little curious…aren’t you?

WHY DOES INHALING HELIUM FROM A BALLOON CAUSE YOUR VOICE TO SOUND LIKE MICKEY MOUSE??

Most of you have probably tried this old party trick at some time, much to the delight of yourselves and your friends.  But, you probably didn’t realize the simple property of physics this “experiment” demonstrates.

The sound of your voice varies with frequency.  The higher the frequency of your voice, the higher the pitch it will have.  This frequency difference is what gives us the musical variety of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.  The frequency of sound increases proportionally with its speed.  This is why the pitch of an approaching train whistle is higher than one moving away.  Since helium is lighter and contains a lesser density than air, sound travels faster through it than through air.  When you replace the air in your lungs and mouth with helium and then speak, the sound of your voice is traveling faster than normal.  Therefore its frequency and pitch are higher, giving you the Mickey Mouse vocal effect.

Well, you surely didn’t think I would post all that information without at least one photograph, did you?  Of course not.  This is my farewell to the holidays.  A last Christmas sunset from Huntington Beach, California!

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~ by photographyfree4all on January 14, 2011.

18 Responses to “WHY DOES HELIUM MAKE YOUR VOICE SOUND LIKE MICKEY MOUSE??”

  1. Love the sunset and title of the photograph. Beautiful, and
    so perfect with the snowflake. I did not know that was why the
    voice changed with helium, but I must admit, I got the giggles
    reading this post, and thinking about how it sounds. Always
    entertaining!

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  2. I just love to read stuff like this. (^__^)

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  3. This sunset is rather unique in that I captured it by turning away from the sun, Angelia! That’s why my polarizing filter blued up the sky so much! I was hoping to position myself in such way that the snowflake would be against the darker cloud formation to make it stand out. As it happens, again my persistense paid off as I captured this shot after a brief wait. But what I’m saying is, I didn’t just walk by and write it off – no, I waited. Also, I would say – don’t forget you can capture some pretty amazing sunset shots when you place the setting sun to your side – especially if you’re using a filter like I was. Great comment, Angelia!!

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  4. Me too, Renx! Sometimes I’m just fascinated with insignificant information. Stay tuned – there will be more. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment!

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  5. I DID know that (but I am a bit of a science geek)! AND,
    did you know that if you inhale Sulfur Hexafluoride, which is 6
    times heavier than air, your
    voice will go deeper? Cool stuff. Nice colors in the sunset and the
    clouds add so much interest.

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  6. Very nice shot! I like the snowflake light against the cloud.

    (And to be really technical, inhaling helium changes the timbre of your voice, not the actual pitch. See here ( http://phys.unsw.edu.au/phys_about/PHYSICS!/SPEECH_HELIUM/speech.html ) for detailed explanations and demos. And yes, I am a geek 😛 )

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  7. I did know that, but always good to get a refresher 🙂 Love that sunset!!!

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  8. I too, knew this but it still cracked me up! Love the colours in the photo, nice capture! I am looking forward to more “Interesting but Insignificant Information”. 😀

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  9. Hi Tracy! I did NOT know about sulfer hexafluoride – I guess it’s not quite as popular at parties! 🙂 Thanks for jumping in and even adding more information! I like that!

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  10. Now we’re going! Thanks for taking us even further with even more information! I think we all may have a little “geek” in us! 🙂

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  11. Thanks, Michael! This was an interesting sunset – I thought, too. I appreciate your comments, Michael!

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  12. Nice sunset shot. I knew more or less how the helium trick worked although I might have forgotten some of the details. It is such a great party trick! Reading through the comments, I have to say sulfur hexafluoride sounds interesting, too!

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  13. Fantastic Shot!
    I forgot to tell you before that my photography blog is at WordPress as well at http://mav2010photography.wordpress.com

    Regards

    Mike

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  14. Thanks for the information about your blog, Mike! Maybe some people will jump over there to check it out! It’s 2011 – a new year! Stop by often. We all encourage each other here! You’ll like it!

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  15. It almost always brings back a funny memory, doesn’t it David! I think this category will be fun!

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  16. Hi Kai! You know what I like the most about this sunset? It’s the small reflection of the sun that is showing on the railing, I just think that sets it off a little! Great comment, as always! Oh, I sure think it would be a funny, funny thing – the sulfur hexafluoride. 🙂

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  17. what a beautiful shot!!!!

    Like

  18. Thank you, Jill. You’re so kind to say so. I appreciate your comments here.

    Like

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